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DEKALB COUNTY | Lack of communication may be behind $41M shortfall | Schools

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DEKALB COUNTY | Lack of communication may be behind $41M shortfall
DEKALB COUNTY | Lack of communication may be behind $41M shortfall

STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. (WXIA) -- The DeKalb County Board of Education told taxpayers Wednesday of a $41 million shortfall in funding for major school projects. Ten million dollars of that shortfall was tied to a single school -- Chamblee Charter High School.

Word emerged Thursday of the board being forced cut costs on 113 ongoing projects and shelving some 35 others.

"I'm furious," said board member Nancy Jester. "It's not that they money is not there but that it is underpriced. I am very disappointed. I am livid about it."

No one on the board wants to point fingers, but there appears to have been a disconnect between two county departments that brought down an improvement plan for the DeKalb County Schools, bringing about the $41 million shortfall.

"We had a number of departments that were not cooperating with each other and two in particular -- finance and facilities. We needed cross functionality among them and we need communication and we didn't have that," said DeKalb School Board spokesperson Walter Wood. "I wish I could tell you it's a smoking gun, one person to blame. one department to single out but it's not."

When asked how the shortfall was discovered, Wood said, "It was discovered when people in Facilities noticed that Chamblee was coming in $10 million over budget and it's largely because Chamblee was based on Tucker High School. It was a natural assumption at the time but it didn't work out."

That was an assumption, Wood admits, that was based five years ago on a different high school with different facilities.

Despite the $10 million shortfall, the school board says the Chamblee project will be fully funded and on schedule to be completed by May 2013 -- in time to help the 1,500 students now studying in trailers.

The Chamblee school also faces $15 million in unanticipated indirect costs that will also have to be covered by cutting other projects around the county.

"These costs were not anticipated. It wasn't accounted for, which is why we are in the place we are in today." Wood said.

Wood says there were overruns on everything from architects to project managers that were not anticipated five years ago.